David, that he may humble all men before God, from the highest to the lowest, celebrates his terrible power in the various wonders of nature, which he affirms are not less fitted to arouse us to give glory to God, than if he were to assert his empire and majesty with his own voice. After he has struck fear into the proud, who are reluctant to yield, and addressed an exhortation to them accompanied by a gentle reproof, he sweetly invites the faithful voluntarily to fear the Lord.

A Psalm of David.


Psalm 29:1-4

1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty, give unto Jehovah glory and strength. 2. Give unto Jehovah the glory of his name;1 worship before Jehovah in the brightness of his sanctuary. 3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; the God of glory thundereth; Jehovah is upon the great waters. 4. The voice of Jehovah is in strength, the voice of Jehovah is in beauty.


1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty. It was no doubt David's design to lead all men to worship and reverence God; but as it is more difficult to reduce great men, who excel in rank, to order, he expressly addresses himself to them. It is obvious, that the LXX, in giving the translation, sons of rams,2 were led into a mistake by the affinity of the Hebrew words.3 About the signification of the word, indeed, the Jewish commentators are all agreed; but when they proceed to speak of its meaning, they pervert and obscure it by the most chilling comments. Some expound it of the angels,4 some of the stars; and others will have it, that by the great men who are referred to are meant the holy fathers. But David only intended to humble the princes of this world, who, being intoxicated with pride, lift up their horns against God. This, accordingly, is the reason why he introduces God, with a terrific voice, subduing by thunders, hail-storms, tempests, and lightnings, these stubborn and stiff-necked giants, who, if they are not struck with fear, refuse to stand in awe of any power in heaven. We see, therefore, why, passing by others, he directs his discourse particularly to the sons of the mighty. The reason is, because there is nothing more common with them than to abuse their lofty station by impious deeds, while they madly arrogate to themselves every divine prerogative. At least that they may modestly submit themselves to God, and, mindful of their frailty, place their dependence upon his grace, it is necessary, as it were, to compel them by force. David, therefore, commands them to give strength unto Jehovah, because, deluded by their treacherous imaginations, they think that the power which they possess is supplied to them from some other quarter than from heaven. In short, he exhorts them to lay aside their haughtiness, and their false opinion about their own strength, and to glorify God as he deserves. By the glory of God's name, (ver. 2,) he means that which is worthy of his majesty, of which the great men of this world are wont to deprive him. The repetition, also, shows that they must be vehemently urged ere a proper acknowledgement be extorted from them. By the brightness of God's sanctuary5 is to be understood, not heaven as some think, but the tabernacle of the covenant, adorned with the symbols of the divine glory, as is evident from the context. And the prophet designedly makes mention of this place, in which the true God had manifested himself, that all men, bidding adieu to superstition, should betake themselves to the pure worship of God. It would not be sufficient to worship any heavenly power, but the one and unchangeable God alone must be worshipped, which cannot come to pass until the world be reclaimed from all foolish inventions and services forged in the brains of men.

3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters. David now rehearses the wonders of nature which I have previously referred to; and well indeed does he celebrate the power of God as well as his goodness, in his works. As there is nothing in the ordinary course of nature, throughout the whole frame of heaven and earth, which does not invite us to the contemplation of God, he might have brought forward, as in Psalm 19:1, the sun and the stars, and the whole host of heaven, and the earth with its riches; but he selects only those works of God which prove not only that the world was at first created by him, and is governed by his power, but which also awaken the torpid, and drag them, as it were, in spite of themselves, humbly to adore him; as even Horace was compelled, though he was not only a heathen poet, but an Epicurean, and a vile contemner of Deity, to say of himself in one of his Odes, -- (Lib. I. Ode 34.)

"A fugitive from heaven and prayer,
I mocked at all religious fear,
Deep scienced in the mazy lore
Of mad philosophy; but now
Hoist sail, and back my voyage plough
To that blest harbour which I left before.

"For, lo! that awful heavenly Sire,
Who frequent cleaves the clouds with fire,
Parent of day, immortal Jove;
Late through the floating fields of air,
The face of heaven serene and fair,
His thund'ring steeds, and winged chariot drove," etc.6

Experience, too, tells us that those who are most daring in their contempt of God are most afraid of thunderings, storms, and such like violent commotions. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet invite our attention to these instances which strike the rude and insensible with some sense of the existence of a God,7 and rouse them to action, however sluggish and regardless they are. He says not that the sun rises from day to day, and sheds abroad his life-giving beams, nor that the rain gently descends to fertilise the earth with its moisture; but he brings forward thunders, violent tempests, and such things as smite the hearts of men with dread by their violence. God, it is true, speaks in all his creatures, but here the prophet mentions those sounds which rouse us from our drowsiness, or rather our lethargy, by the loudness of their noise. We have said, that this language is chiefly directed to those who with stubborn recklessness, cast from them, as far as they can, all thought of God. The very figures which he uses sufficiently declare, that David's design was to subdue by fear the obstinacy which yields not willingly otherwise. Thrice he repeats that God's voice is heard in great and violent tempests, and in the subsequent verse he adds, that it is full of power and majesty.

1 "C'est, digne de son nom." -- Note, Fr. Marg. "That is, worthy of his name."

2 The entire reading of the verse in the Septuagint is, "Ene>gkate tw|~ Kuri>w| uJioi< Qeou~ ene>gkate tw|~ Kuri>w| uJiou<v kriw~n" "Bring to the Lord, ye sons of God, bring to the Lord young rams." Thus the LXX, as is not unusual in other places, render the words for "Ye sons of the mighty" twice; first, in the vocative case, addressing them, Uioi< Qeou, Ye sons of God, and then in the accusative case, uJiou<v kriw~n, young rams, being apparently doubtful which was the correct rendering, and, therefore, putting down both. The Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic, exactly follow them. Jerome also reads, "Afferte Domino filios arietum;" although he does not give a double translation of the original words. But the correct rendering, we have no doubt, is, "Ye sons of the mighty;" which is just a Hebrew idiomatic expression for "Ye mighty ones," or, "Ye princes;" and to them the inspired writer addresses an invitation to acknowledge and worship God from the manifestation of his majesty and power in the wonders of nature.

3 The Hebrew word which Calvin renders "mighty," is Myla, elym, a word which means gods. The Hebrew word Mylya, eylim, which means rams, nearly resembles it, having only an additional y, yod, and this letter is often cut off in nouns.

4 The Chaldee paraphrases it thus:-- "The assembly of angels, sons of God," meaning by God angels.

5 This translation conveys a somewhat different meaning from that of our English version; but it is supported by several critics. Green reads, "In his beautiful sanctuary;" and Fry, "Worship Jehovah with holy reverence," or, "Worship Jehovah in the glorious places of the sanctuary." "Where the Hebrews read trdhb" says Hammond, "in the glory or beauty of holiness, from rdh, to honor, or beautify, the LXX. read, ejn aujlh~| aJgi>a| aujtou, in his holy court, as if it were from, "penetrale, thalamus, area, a closet, a marriage-chamber, a court; and so the Latin and Syriac follow them, and the Arabic, in his "holy habitation."

6 Dr Francis' Translation of Horace.

7 "Qui contraignent les barbares et gens esbestez sentir qu'il y a un Dieu." -- Fr. "Which constrain the rude and insensible to feel that there is a God."